Sharad Pawar

New Delhi: Leaders of several opposition parties on Wednesday urged NCP supremo Sharad Pawar to be the joint opposition candidate for the presidential election, but the veteran leader once again declined the offer at a meeting convened by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee here.

As many as 17 opposition parties attended the crucial meeting of opposition parties to build consensus on fielding a joint candidate against the BJP-led NDA in the presidential election.

Leaders of the Congress, Samajwadi Party, NCP, DMK, RJD and the Left parties attended the over two-hour-long meeting called by the Trinamool Congress supremo, while the AAP, SAD, AIMIM, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Odisha’s ruling BJD skipped it.

Leaders of Shiv Sena, CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), National Conference, PDP, JD(S), RSP, IUML, RLD and the JMM were among those who attended the meeting, which took place on the day the nomination for the presidential election began. The election would be held on July 18.

“Leaders of all parties requested Sharad Pawar to contest the President’s election and be the joint candidate, but he declined the offer,” DMK leader T R Baalu told reporters after the meeting.

He said some leaders have requested that Mallikarjun Kharge, Pawar and Banerjee negotiate and discuss the issue of a consensus opposition candidate for the presidential election with all non-BJP parties.

RJD’s Manoj Jha, however, said the leaders would convince Pawar to reconsider the offer as he was the right candidate.

CPI’s Binoy Viswam said, “There was consensus in the meeting that there should be only one candidate who is acceptable to all.”

He said that only Sharad Pawar’s name came up during the meeting.

RSP’s NK Premchandran, however, said that Banerjee later also suggested the names of Farooq Abdullah and Gopalkrishna Gandhi as possible opposition candidates.

The leaders who attended the meeting included Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel of the NCP, Mallikarjun Kharge, Jairam Ramesh and Randeep Surjewala of the Congress, H D Deve Gowda and H D Kumaraswamy of the JD(S), Akhilesh Yadav of the SP, Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) skipped the meeting at the Constitution Club in the national capital, besides the Aam Aadmi Party, TRS, AIMIM and the BJD.

The meeting which began at 3 pm ended a little after 5 PM.

Banerjee last week invited leaders of 19 political parties, including seven chief ministers, for the meeting in the national capital to produce a “confluence of opposition voices” for the July 18 election.

A day ahead of the meeting, Banerjee and Left party leaders had met Pawar at his residence separately to try and convince him to be the common opposition candidate for the top constitutional post.

With the ruling NDA having about half the votes of the electoral college and the possible support of fence-sitters like the BJD, AIADMK and YSR, its candidate is likely to sail through the contest.

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